October 2019

Introducing the Full-Time Waldorf Teacher Professional Development Class of 2020

Photo: Class of 2019-2020 at their Michaelmas Festival, September 2019.


Professional Development for Waldorf Early Childhood Teachers Full-Time

Professional Development for Waldorf Teachers Full-Time

Gilia MacKay  

Canada (Early Childhood Focus)

Gilia MacKay was born in the small city of Nelson, nestled in the mountains of British Columbia, Canada. She has two older sisters, an older brother and one younger brother. She spent most of her first six years traveling around B.C. with her family being raised in tree planting camps while here parents worked. Spending so much of her early years outside inspired her great love of animals, the outdoors and being amongst nature.

When Gilia was around the age of four she began piano lessons, studying with the Royal Conservatory through her childhood and into adulthood and still plays to this day. Gilia was five when she began Kindergarten at the Nelson Waldorf School and followed all the way through graduating from grade 8 before attending the public schools for high school. It was while being in a public high school, having then experienced both the Waldorf and Public schools systems that Gilia decided that she wanted to further her education in a Waldorf school setting, thinking that she would eventually become an Eurythmy teacher.   

At a fairly young age Gilia began to help out with her parents janitorial job and was  14 when she took on her own cleaning job, cleaning a real estate office within the main building that her parents cleaned and then a couple years later she began cleaning a doctor's office as well.  After graduating grade 12 from L.V. Rodger's Secondary High School, Gilia began studying Tai-Chi and Ba-Gua during the winters and working away at a fruit farm and packinghouse from spring though to fall, this she did for a couple of years.

During this time Gilia attended a week long Tai-Chi camp for work trade in the summers, where she began to learn camp cooking and that unexpectedly led her to move to Alberta to work in the Oil&Gas Industry. Unexpected as Gilia was thinking that she was going to become a tree planting cook not an oil rig camp cook, but aside from disliking the industry she was working in she greatly enjoyed working as camp cook. After three years in Alberta and missing living in the mountains, Gilia moved back home to the Nelson area and got a job cooking in a pup/restaurant and took the next little while to think about what she truly wanted to do and where she wanted to go forward in life.

Gilia eventually decided on doing her Handwork Teacher training and Foundation studies at the Rudolf Steiner College. After the first year of handwork training Gilia started assisting in Kindergarten at the Nelson Waldorf School with the intention to eventually take over as the Handwork Teacher there.  While working as an assistant in kindergarten Gilia fell in love with the program and received much positive feedback from the school and from parents whenever she had to step into the lead position.  Having enjoyed herself working in kindergarten and knowing that the lead teacher that she has been working with is close to being done holding the position, as well as having low enrollment for this year, Gilia decided to take this opportunity to go away to school and work towards becoming  a lead kindergarten teacher in a Waldorf School.

Bronwen McCann  

Canada (Grade School Focus)

Bronwen grew up on a small farm just outside of Guelph, ON. Inspired by stories of gnomes and faeries, Bronwen spent her formative years adventuring through forests, fields and along streams on her family’s property, immersed in the imaginative landscapes of play. Through this early exploration of the interwovenness of story and nature, a seed was planted in her about the value of an imagination grounded in the world. Her interest in an education that recognizes the importance of the imagination and its relationship to truth is what eventually drew her to the insights of Waldorf education. 

Bronwen graduated from the University of Guelph with a B.A. in Philosophy and a minor in Music. Over the course of her studies she became increasingly interested in the philosophy of education, where she eventually discovered the writings of Rudolf Steiner. After completing her undergraduate degree, she took a year off to teach music lessons, during which time she read the book “Uncovering the Voice: The Cleansing Power of Song” by Valborg Werbeck-Svärdström and began experimenting with some of the methods described in the book in her vocal instruction. 

Wanting to develop her ideas around education, Bronwen went on the following year to do her master’s in Arts Education at Simon Fraser University. During that time, she decided to enroll in the Foundations Studies Distance program at RSCT. Over the summers of 2018-2019, Bronwen worked as Assistant Co-ordinator of the Farm School Programs at Everdale Organic Farm, a farm-based organization focused on food and farming education in Hillsburgh, ON. 

Her teaching experiences at Everdale, combined with the resonance she feels in relation to anthroposophical perspectives on education, deepened her certainty about becoming a Waldorf teacher. Bronwen has training in voice, guitar and piano. She also has many years of experience writing her own music. Bronwen is currently in the process of completing her teacher training at RSCT with the intent of becoming a Grades teacher in a Waldorf school. 

Sihui Huang

China (Grade School Focus)

Sihui was born in a small village in Guangdong, China. She was taken care of by her grandma from the ages of 9 months to two and a half. After that, she moved to Zhuhai and grew up there with her whole family.

Even though She did very well at school, she couldn’t choose her favorite major in the university. What her father wanted her to major in was Computer Science. So she graduated from a famous engineering university in China, and was an engineer at the GuangZhou TV Station for 12 years.

After the birth of her child, she began the journey to find herself. She founded a breastfeeding studio with her friends. She was responsible for public welfare lectures about breastfeeding and intimate parenting. During that period, she learnt a lot about children and parenting. But still, she had a great many questions and had found no answer.

When her child was a three-year-old, she sent her to a Waldorf Kindergarten. For the first time, she heard about the importance of rhythm, boundaries and authority. She had a hunch that maybe her answers could be found here. Two years later, she resigned and joined the Hairong Waldorf School in Guangzhou and became an assistant teacher.

She likes children very much. When they behave inappropriately, she tries to understand them by considering their developmental characteristics, their environment, and their physical state as well. The children like her too. As she was about to leave, the children kept asking her when she would go back and continue to be their teacher.

She met woodworking there, which made her calm and focused. Every piece of wood has life, even though it looks dirty and ugly at first. When you see it and put your time and heart into it, it will surprise you at last. During that year, she made some wood toys, wood crafts and teaching equipment.

There she learnt a lot about children and herself. And she could do what she was interested in but had not had the time to do when she was young, such as painting, handcraft, gardening, and so on.

And now, she has a chance to study here, a fifty-year-old Waldorf School, and continue finding answers in her mind and questioning more. 

Michelle Patterson

Canada (Grade School Focus)

From a very young age, when she would sit her dolls and teddy bears in a circle and sing to them, Michelle knew she wanted to teach. After graduating from Trent University with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in English Literature, Michelle began teaching English as a Second Language to adult International students. Several months later, Michelle was offered a position as a classroom assistant at a Montessori school, and immediately realized that her purpose was in teaching children.

She loved the fundamentals of the Montessori philosophy, which was to follow the child. The following school year, Michelle continued to work as an assistant in both a Casa classroom (3-6 year olds) and an elementary classroom (6-9 year olds), while completing her early childhood Montessori teacher training in the evenings. Once qualified, Michelle taught as a lead teacher for the next few years in a Casa class, along with completing her Masters of Arts in Education degree part time. 

In 2005, Michelle got married and took a one-year sabbatical from teaching in order to travel the world with her new husband. She returned to the classroom for three years after that before having her first child in 2011. While on maternity leave, Michelle founded a non-profit community outreach program that helps parents in need in the greater Toronto area. It Takes A Village provides emergency food assistance and baby items such as formula and diapers for mostly single moms, as well as ongoing emotional and moral support.

Michelle’s first experience of Waldorf education was attending the Joyful Beginnings and Parent and Tot programs at TWS with her two children. Struck by a feeling of ‘coming home’ during those years, she enrolled her eldest in kindergarten and never looked back. Michelle’s two sons are currently grade three and JK students at TWS.

Recently, Michelle began to feel the familiar itch to return to teaching with both children now in school full time. During her last 8 years as part of the parent community, Michelle has developed a basic understanding of the Waldorf curriculum and pedagogy and has immersed herself in the school community through several volunteer capacities. A few months ago, Michelle realised the truth in the idea that ‘when you know better, you do better’ and at once understood that a Waldorf teaching career was undeniably the right path for her.

Her experience understanding and connecting with children, creating a three-year curriculum for early childhood students in both fine art and drama, as well as her propensity for arts and crafts, creative writing and story telling will undoubtedly be a helpful foundation as a grade school teacher. Michelle feels both excited and humbled with the anticipation for this new chapter in the novel of her life and is very much looking forward to things to come.

Michelle hopes to teach full time as a grades teacher upon graduating.

Oana-Maria Nichifor 

Romania (Grade School Focus)

Oana is an ESL teacher, working towards becoming a Waldorf Grade Teacher in Canada. 

She was born in Romania, spending her childhood years mainly with her maternal grandmother in the village, where she developed an interest in nature, knitting and dancing.

She graduated from the College of Economics (Technician in Financial and Business Activities) in 2003 and continued her studies at the Bucharest University of Economics (Bachelor of Economics) 2003 - 2007.

She worked for almost six years in client financial and administrative management, technological innovation and marketing.

In 2009 she started taking personal development classes, becoming an instructor in 2013. She was then offered to move to Mexico, as a personal development trainer.

As she moved to Puebla, Mexico, she was also offered to work as an English teacher in a private middle school, where she worked for four years 2013 - 2017.

In 2015 she married Mauricio Torres, an Ecuadorian PhD agronomist, specialized in indigenous philosophy. 

In 2017 they moved to an indigenous village in Mexico, due to her husband’s PhD research paper, where she worked as a volunteer teacher at an indigenous high school, for five months, teaching English, Mathematics, Economics and Physics. The experience was challenging and exciting as she had to prepare her classes in a way that would be practical and relevant to the indigenous life.

It was after seeing a documentary on Rudolf Steiner’s work during her husband’s Ethno-Agriculture class, that she became interested in Waldorf pedagogy, as she realized it was a teaching method directed mainly to the consciousness, taking into consideration the human brain development stages and  the evolvement of the child as a whole body-soul-spirit being.

In March 2018 she volunteered at a Waldorf school in Puebla, Mexico, and started the part-time Waldorf Teacher Program at CDA in Cuernavaca, Mexico in July, completing the first two modules (out of five) of her training. 

She completed the online Foundation Studies at RSCT in 2019, enrolling in the full-time Waldorf Teacher Program at RSCT, Canada, that same year.

Becoming a Waldorf teacher represents a perfect mix between her love for teaching, interest in personal development, indigenous teachings and enthusiasm for learning.

Weiyang Li

China (Grade School Focus)

Weiyang Li grew up in a small, quiet and peaceful village beside a big lake in Southern China. She had lots of freedom to play, swim and catch fish with her brothers and sister .She helped her family to take care of the animals and vegetable garden. She also learned early on how to cook as part of her responsibilities growing up in a rural setting ,she especially liked cooking different types of food. 

Weiyang was interested in traditional ideas and began seeking the meaning of life around 2007. Like any sincere seeker. she met soon thereafter her spirit mentor Mr. Zeng. who was interested in Chinese and continental (European) spiritual culture such as Daoism, Buddhism and Waldorf Education. He had studied Anthroposophy in Germany and founded a school for the disabled who couldn't go to school.

When he spoke to Weiyang that he trained those children in Chinese painting, Weiyang asked him how the children knew about colour as they had lost their eyesight ?He answered: “Because colour is an element of the one Truth manifest, no matter if you have eyesight or not.” Such a story resonated with Weiyang and she stayed at the school to explore Waldorf Education with children for approximately the next 10 years. 

She helped to build a Waldorf school for children in a small village and city in Qingdao and Wenzhou. She became a teacher there and taught from Kindergarten to Grade 8.  She attended Guangxi Normal University for Preschool Education and graduated with a certificate. She went to various workshops to further her training such as handicrafts, crocheting, nutrition, watercolor painting, hand embroidery, drama, clay modeling and massage for the children. She personally enjoys yoga and meditation. 

She immigrated to Canada in March 2017. By August, she had moved to Stratford to work at Nancy Campbell Academy as an residential advisor. One year later, she obtained her Home Child Care License and began her own pre-school along with her four-year-old daughter Abigail. She studied at different workshops for children of Perth Care For Kids. 

Weiyang 's dream is to be a professional Waldorf grades teacher in Canada, She studied Anthroposophy with her mentor Marg Beard and brought a synthesis and understanding from traditional Chinese thought and Steiner's Rosicrucianism. Her ability to explore knowledge is through feeling, as if the sunshine comes into her soul. Such nourishment has helped her live and enjoy each moment.

She hopes she can continue to seek Truth in this new cultural context and love in the moment - proud of what she has accomplished and what she will accomplish in the future. To be awake every day is her dream. 

She thanks everyone here for listening to her story. 

Renata Freibergova

Czechoslovakia (Grade School Focus)

Renata was born and raised in Czechoslovakia, in a communist regime. She was born to a very young energetic openminded couple who felt in love with each other and from the day one they both had done their best, their maximum to love Renata and her younger sister unconditionally till nowadays.

Renata spent lots of times outdoor in nature, farming, helping with horses, gardening, mushroom picking, fishing, camping, roasting chestnuts, socializing with the family members and their friends, dancing, singing, swimming, hiking in all seasons, also in winter in a deep snow, skiing and many more delightful fun experiences while growing up.

Renata also was raised by her grandmother, who she used to tell her the stories from the 1st and 2nd World War where she was working as a nurse. Renata always listened to their grandma’s stories in darkness with the candle on in a peaceful cozy home. Till nowadays Renata remembers those very meaningful inspirational stories that made her always imagine that one day she will be like her grandmother helping people and children in life too. 

Renata graduated from the Teacher College in Czech Republic where she for the first time had the opportunity to learn about Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner and the Waldorf Pedagogy that deeply spoke to her. Renata growing up learned how to speak German and Russian. 

Renata moved to Canada when she was 22 years old to learn also an English language, where she studied Physiotherapist assistant College in Mississauga graduating with Diploma and started working full time as a physiotherapist assistant at Oakville Hospital for 12 years. While living in Oakville she also established through the International language program at Halton Catholic School Board a successful Czech school program with enrollment from JK – Grade Eight.  

Renata relocated her family to Guelph for her two sons to start Waldorf Education at Trillium Waldorf school. She has recently completed The Foundation Studies on Anthroposophy and has started Professional Development for Waldorf Teachers Education Full time program at Rudolf Steiner Centre in Toronto. Renata is being more inspired as a passionate educator and wishes to make a difference in the world with her inner enthusiasm, energy, love and care and is even more ready to become a loving authority, spreading the goodness for her new students.

Renata can’t think of anything more relevant for our times becoming a Waldorf Grade Teacher in Guelph or perhaps one day opening a new Waldorf school in Canada, possibly in another country and spreading gratitude, love, freedom through teaching Waldorf Education to all children one day.

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